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34. Suffering Sent As Absolute Kindness

Free will is the personal, independent decision of human beings to choose that the Creator should rule over us rather than Pharaoh. The power of Pharaoh consists of demonstrating to us the rewards we can receive. We clearly perceive the rewards that can be gained from our egoistic actions; we comprehend these rewards with our reason, and see them with our eyes. The result is known from the start; and is approved by society, by the family, by the parents, and by the children.

Hence, the body asks Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?" (Exodus 5, 2), meaning, "What do I gain from work like this?"

We are thus correct when we see that it is impossible to advance against our own nature. But advancement itself is not the ultimate goal, but only the act of having faith in the Creator’s ability to change us.

The Light of the Creator, His disclosure to a human being, is known as “life.”

The first instance of the permanent perception of the Creator is known as “the spiritual birth” of a person. But just as in our world a person possesses a natural desire to live, so in the spiritual world one is obligated to develop the same aspiration in oneself.

This is necessary if one truly desires to be born spiritually, in accordance with the principle "the suffering for pleasure determines the pleasure that is received." Therefore, we must study Kabbalah for the sake of the Kabbalah; that is, to reveal the Light and the Creator. If one does not attain this objective, one feels tremendous suffering and bitterness. This condition is known as "a life of suffering." Yet one must, nevertheless, continue to exert effort. The fact that one did not attain the revelation of the Creator should prompt that person to increase efforts until the Creator will reveal Himself.

It is clearly seen that it is human suffering that gradually gives rise to the real desire to attain the revelation of the Creator. Such suffering is known as “the suffering of love.” This suffering is worthy of anyone’s envy! When the vessel is sufficiently filled with this suffering, the Creator will reveal Himself to the Kabbalists, those who acquired this desire.

Quite often, in order to complete a business deal, there is a need for a middle man, who can convey to the buyer a message that a certain object is worth even more than the price that is placed on that object. In other words, the seller is not inflating the price at all.

The entire method of "receiving admonition" (mussar) is based on this principle, which attempts to convince an individual to leave aside material considerations for the sake of the spiritual. All the books of mussar teach that all the pleasures of our world are spurious, and carry no value in them. Therefore, an individual is not really giving up anything significant when turning away from spiritual pleasures.

The method of Rabbi Baal Shem-Tov is somewhat different. A greater emphasis is placed on the object that is being bought. An individual is shown the infinite worth and grandeur of the spiritual acquisition. It is conceded that there is certain value in the pleasures of this world, but it is preferable if one would refuse them, since the spiritual pleasures are incomparably greater.

If an individual could remain in egoism and, at the same time, receive spiritual pleasures with the material ones, then the desires of that individual would constantly increase. As a result, the individual would move further away from the Creator due to an increasing disparity in qualities and their magnitude. Because the individual would not perceive the Creator, there would be no feelings of shame from the act of receiving pleasure.

One can receive pleasure from the Creator only by virtue of becoming similar to Him in qualities, which will immediately be countered by the body. This resistance will be experienced in the form of questions that will arise, such as

"What did I gain from this work, even though I spent so much effort on it? "Why should I study so hard at night?"

"Is it truly possible to attain the perception of the spiritual and of the Creator to the degree that the Kabbalists describe?"

"Is it a task that can be carried out by an ordinary person?"

All that our egoism suggests is correct: A human being is not able to attain even the lowest of the spiritual levels without help. However, it can be done with the help of the Creator. The most difficult aspect, however, is to have faith in the Creator’s help until it is received. The Creator’s help in countering egoism comes as a revelation of His grandeur and power.

If the grandeur of the Creator were revealed to everyone in our world, each person would do nothing but strive to please the Creator, even without any reward, because the opportunity to serve Him would be considered a reward in itself, and no one would request a reward. They would even refuse any additional reward.

But since the grandeur of the Creator is concealed from our eyes and senses, we are not able to accomplish anything for His sake. The body (our reason) considers itself more important than the Creator, since it senses only itself. Thus, it logically argues that if the body is more important than the Creator, then one should work for the body and to receive rewards.

But one should not work if there is no perceived benefit from the completed work. However, in our world we observe that only children during their games, or emotionally unstable people, are ready to toil without the anticipation of reward. In both cases, this occurs because people in both categories are forced into this line of action by their nature: children, for the sake of their development; emotionally unstable people, for the sake of correcting their souls.

Pleasure is a derivative of the desire that preceded it: appetite, suffering, passion, and hunger. A person who possesses everything is terribly unhappy because there is nothing more worth seeking for gratification. Hence, one may become depressed. If we were to measure a person’s possessions by the perception of happiness, then poor people would be the richest, because even the most insignificant things please them.

The Creator does not reveal Himself immediately and all at once; this is so that a person will develop a complete and correct desire for His revelation. This is precisely the reason that the Creator conceals Himself, in order that a person will develop a feeling of urgent necessity for the Creator. When one decides to advance toward the Creator, instead of feeling fulfillment from this choice and an enjoyment of the process of spiritual attainment, one plunges into circumstances full of suffering.

This occurs specifically to prompt us to cultivate faith in the Creator’s kindness above our own feelings and thoughts. Regardless of the suffering that suddenly descends upon us, we must overcome our thoughts about this suffering through internal exertion and force ourselves to think of the goal of creation. We should also consider our part in the scheme of things, even though neither the mind nor the heart are inclined to think of these issues

We should not lie to ourselves and say that this is not suffering. But along with this we should believe, despite feelings to the contrary. This requires trying not to perceive the Creator or His revelation, nor seeking clear knowledge of His thoughts, actions and plans in sending us the suffering. This could be similar to a bribe, a reward for the endured pain.

But all actions and thoughts should be directed not to the self or into the self; they should not be concentrated on the feelings of suffering, or on the thoughts of how to escape it. Instead, we should transfer our perception to outside our bodies, as if moving from the inside out. We should attempt to perceive the Creator and His design, not through our own hearts, but from the outside, distancing the self from the process, placing ourselves in the shoes of the Creator, accepting this suffering as the necessary precondition for increasing our faith in the Supreme Dominion, so that we do everything only for the sake of the Creator.

Having accomplished the above, we can earn the revelation of the Creator, the perception of the divine light and of His true dominion. This is because the Creator reveals Himself only to altruistic desires; only in thoughts other than those about self and personal problems; only in "outside" concerns, because only then is there a congruence of qualities between the Creator and ourselves.

But if we, in our hearts ask Him to spare us suffering, then we are in the state of a beggar, an egoist.

For this reason, we must discover positive feelings for the Creator. Only then can we receive a personal revelation of the Creator.

It is necessary to remember that the concealment of the Creator and our suffering are the consequences of our egoistic shells, because the Creator emits only pleasure and clarity.

He does this on the condition that we create altruistic desires and completely reject egoism as a departure from our nature and from the feeling of the "self," the "I." All our sins stem from the refusal to advance by means of faith above reason. Consequently, we undergo constant suffering because the ground is being pulled from under our feet.

It is natural that, having invested much effort into our studies and into working on ourselves, we await a good reward. Instead, we receive only painful feelings of despair and critical situations. It is harder to resist pleasures from our altruistic deeds than from our egoistic deeds, because the magnitude of the pleasure itself is incomparably greater.

It is very difficult, even for an instant, to see intellectually that, in fact, this is the help of the Creator. The body, against all reasoning, cries of the necessity to rid itself of such a state. Only the help of the Creator can save us from the sudden problems that arise, but not by asking for a solution.

The answer is in praying for an opportunity, regardless of the demands of the body, to acquire faith above reason, to attain the feeling of agreement with the actions of the Creator, as it is only He Who has the domain over everything, and it is He Who creates all circumstances in order to ensure our ultimate spiritual well-being.

All earthly torments, spiritual suffering, shame, and reprimands need to be tolerated by a Kabbalist on the path to the spiritual unification with the Creator. The history of Kabbalah is full of examples: Rashbi, Rambam, Ramchal, The Ari, etc.

But as soon as we are able to have faith above reason against our own perceptions; as soon as the suffering is interpreted as absolute kindness and the will of the Creator to bring a person closer to Him; as soon as we accept our state and stop wanting to alter it so we can be filled with feelings pleasant for egoism; as soon as all these conditions take place, the Creator will reveal Himself to us in all His grandeur.

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